Timeline

Birth of the Navy

October 13, 1775

Establishment of the Continental Navy

The United States Navy traces its origins to the Continental Navy, which is established at the beginning of the American Revolution. On October 13, 1775, the Continental Congress decides to purchase two armed ships to attack British supply ships and keep their supplies from reaching British soldiers in the colonies. A second resolution passes the same day creating a naval committee to oversee the purchase of the ships and write a set of regulations for their management. Thus was born the Continental Navy, and October 13 remains the official birth date of the U.S. Navy.

Image of Continetal Navy Ship

February 17, 1776

Image of first overseas Expedition of the Continental Navy at the shore

First Overseas Expedition of the Continental Navy

Commodore Esek Hopkins, recently appointed “commander in chief of the fleet,” sails from the Delaware with a squadron of eight vessels, with orders to clear the Chesapeake Bay and the coasts of Virginia and the Carolinas of British raiders. Taking advantage of a flexible clause in his orders, Hopkins sets course for the Bahamas. On March 3, Hopkins lands a force of 300 sailors and marines, which storms Forts Nassau and Montagu and occupies New Providence Island. Some 73 cannons, mortars, and a large quantity of munitions are captured and loaded on board Hopkins’s ships to be carried back to the Continental Army.

March 27, 1794

Reestablishment of the U.S. Navy

After the United States won its independence in 1783, the remaining ships of the Continental Navy are sold and its officers and sailors return to civilian life. But the need to defend the nation’s seaborne commerce finally moves Congress to re-establish the Navy in the spring of 1794. Urged on by President George Washington, Congress authorizes the construction or purchase of six frigates to protect American shipping from Algerine corsairs. Three frigates are to mount 44 guns and three are to mount 36 guns, though Congress stipulates that their construction will be cancelled in the event that peace is made with Algiers before their completion.

George Washington aboard ship - an oil painting by Orlando S. Lagman, USN (1965)

June 28, 1794

Silas Talbot, a portrait by Ralph Earl, courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

First Officers

The first officers of the new navy are appointed. There are six captains: James Sever, John Barry, Richard Dale, Samuel Nicholson, Silas Talbot, and Thomas Truxtun. Each captain is assigned to oversee the construction of one of the six frigates. Construction proceeds slowly due to the difficulty of gathering supplies and the decision to build major structural components out of live oak, which must be harvested in southern forests.

April 20, 1796

Three Frigates

Despite the conclusion of peace with Algiers in 1795, Congress authorizes the completion of frigates Constitution (44 guns), United States (44 guns), and Constellation (36 guns). The other three frigates then under construction are postponed. The frigate United States is launched on May 10, 1797, while the frigates Constellation and Constitution are launched on September 7, 1797 and October 21, 1797, respectively. USS Constitution remains a commissioned warship today and is homeported in Boston, Massachusetts – the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat!

Image of Continetal Navy Ship

April 30, 1798

Image of John Adams

Establishment of the Navy Department

In early 1798 an overworked Secretary of War James McHenry complains to Congress about his responsibility for naval affairs. Naval administration had become a large portion of his department’s work, as it had for the Treasury Department, which oversaw all of the navy’s contracting and disbursing. The Department of War had also been criticized by Congress for the excessive cost of the naval construction program. Seeing the obvious need for an executive department responsible solely for naval affairs, Congress passes a bill establishing the Department of the Navy. President John Adams signs this historic act on April 30, 1798.

May 18, 1798

First Secretary of the Navy Appointed

Benjamin Stoddert is appointed as the nation’s first secretary of the navy, upon confirmation by the Senate. Stoddert, a prominent merchant who had served as secretary of the Continental Board of War during the American Revolution, had been nominated by President John Adams three days prior. When he becomes secretary in June 1798, only one American warship was deployed for operations in the undeclared Quasi-War with France. Before the Quasi-War ends in 1801, the Navy possesses almost 30 ships, with some 700 officers and 5,000 seamen.

Picture of Benjamin Stoddert as First Secretary of the Navy Appointed

History of the US Navy Supply Corps

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USS Constitution -- Progress in the Navy

Hyperlapse of the Uss Constitution Entering Dry Dock

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242nd Navy Birthday: Seapower to Protect and Promote

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Man the Guns

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Navy Birthday 242nd

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On October 13, 1775, the Continental Congress authorizes two vessels ‘fitted out’ with 10 carriage guns, a number of swivel guns, and crews of 80 to intercept ships carrying munitions and stores to the British army in America. This legislation constitutes the birth of the U.S. Navy.

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On May 1, 2011, in an intelligence-driven U.S. operation in Pakistan, Navy SEALs kill al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. In a televised address, President Barack Obama says, “A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability.”

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On June 6, 1944 (D-Day), 6,000 ships of Operation Neptune deliver an invasion force of more than 150,000 troops to the beaches of Normandy, launching Operation Overlord. The Normandy invasion proves a psychological and physical blow to the Nazis from which they never recover. June 4-7, 1942

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On October 23, 1944, the largest naval battle in modern hi, the three-day Battle of Leyte Gulf begins. It ends Japan’s capacity to fight as an organized force, is the last sea battle between battleships, sees the last “crossing the T” maneuver, and the first Kamikaze attacks. June 6, 1944

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On September 15, 1950 naval forces under Adm. C. Turner Joy deploy troops ashore in the Korean War’s Inchon landing, fracturing the North Korean war machine. General MacArthur later signals, 'The Navy and Marines have never shone more brightly than this morning.

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On September 30, 1954, the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, USS Nautilus (SSN-571), is commissioned at Groton, Conn. On August 3, 1958, Nautilus is the first sub to pass under the North Pole. The boat serves for more than 25 years and is now a museum ship in Groton.

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On April 18, 1942, in the first WWII attack on the Japanese mainland, the Doolittle Raid launches 16 Army Air Force B-25s from USS Hornet (CV-8) underway 650 miles off Japan. Of the mission’s 80 crewmen, three are lost on the mission and only four of eight taken prisoner survive.

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On June 4-7, 1942 the Battle of Midway is fought for a U.S. base on a mid-Pacific atoll. Prior to the battle, Japan had general naval superiority. The loss of four Japanese carriers in the battle turns the tables, enabling the U.S. to go on the offensive on course to victory in the war.

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

October 21, 1797, USS Constitution, one of six frigates authorized by an act of Congress, is launched and christened at Edmund Hartt’s Shipyard in Boston, Mass. Still in service today, Constitution is the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat.

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On February 16, 1804, Lt. Stephen Decatur, with volunteers from Constitution and Enterprise, enters Tripoli harbor in Intrepid and burns the captured frigate Philadelphia without American losses. England’s Lord Nelson calls the mission “the most daring act of the age.”

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On September 11, 1814, in the War of 1812, the U.S. victory at the Battle of Lake Champlain (aka the Battle of Plattsburgh) ends the war’s final British invasion, depriving them of supplies and leverage to later demand control over the Great Lakes and territorial gains in New England.

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On October 29, 1814, the first steam-powered Navy warship, Fulton, a frigate, launches at New York City and is later commissioned in June 1816. Largely unemployed, she later serves as a receiving ship until June 4, 1829 when her magazine explodes, killing 30 and destroying the ship.

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On March 9, 1862, during the Civil War, in the first battle between ironclads, USS Monitor and CSS Virginia batter each other at close range for more than four hours in Hampton Roads, Va. Though neither ship sustains much damage, Virginia eventually withdraws.

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On May 1, 1898, the Spanish-American War Battle of Manila Bay not only gives birth to the historical expression “You may fire when ready, Gridley,” but also in about six hours, liquidates the Spanish Fleet and installations in the harbor without the loss of a single American life.

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On December 16, 1907, the Great White Fleet departs Hampton Roads, Va. to circumnavigate the world returning February 22, 1909. The voyage is a grand pageant of American sea power manned by 14,000 Sailors that covered 43,000 miles and made 20 port calls on six continents.

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

In March 1917, as the U.S. nears entry into the World War, the Navy’s need for clerical assistance is immense. Shore stations, overwhelmed by preparations for war, ask for assistance. SECNAV Josephus Daniels responds by opening the door to service for women as yeomen.

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On September 7, 1775, Turtle, the first combat submarine, is used by Sgt. Ezra Lee to attack HMS Eagle in New York Harbor. Copper-sheathing, marine growth, or perhaps a hard spot in the hull keep Lee from drilling into the ship’s bottom to attach a torpedo which then drifts away.

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

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RED SEA (Sept. 23, 2014) The guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) launches Tomahawk cruise missiles. Arleigh Burke is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Carlos M. Vazquez II/Released)

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake strikes Haiti. The U.S. Navy is a key contributor to Operation Unified Response, which delivers more than 2.6 million bottles of water, 2.2 million food rations, 17 million pounds of food and 149,000 pounds of medical supplies. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristopher Wilson/Released)

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On February 20, 2008, USS Lake Erie (CG-70), fires a Standard Missile-3 destroying a dangerous, non-functioning satellite just before it enters earth’s atmosphere. The intercept occurs about 153 miles over the Pacific as the satellite travels at more than 17,000 mph.

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On October 7, 2001, after the September 11 al Qaeda terrorist attacks, Operation Enduring Freedom begins with Tomahawk and carrier air strikes on targets in Afghanistan. Later at sea, Navy amphibious forces establish a 750 mile supply line through Pakistan to Marines in Afghanistan. January 16, 1991. U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer's Mate Airman Apprentice Lance H. Mayhew Jr.

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On January 16, 1991, Operation Desert Storm begins. Maritime superiority and unchallenged control of the sea enable naval forces to provide protection for land-based forces and the safe and timely delivery of war materiel. After nearly three months of combat, Iraq surrenders on March 3.

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On April 18, 1988, in Operation Praying Mantis, Navy ships and Navy and Marine aircraft strike Iranian oil platforms, sink the Iranian frigate Sahand and smaller boats, and damage the frigate Sabalan in retaliation for the mining of USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) four days earlier. December 17, 1970

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On December 17, 1970, in Z-Gram 66, CNO Admiral Elmo Zumwalt directs immediate action to combat ‘significant discrimination in the Navy.’ He ends the Z-gram saying, 'There is no black Navy, no white Navy-just one Navy-the United States Navy.' Z-Gram 66 results in many minority firsts.

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On July 29, 1967, onboard USS Forrestal (CVA-59), a Zuni rocket fires from an F-4B Phantom into an A-4E Skyhawk, sets off a series of explosions and fires that kill 134 and injure 161 crewmembers. Today, Sailors are still taught the damage control and firefighting lessons learned that day.

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On March 11, 1965, During the Vietnam War, Task Force 115 stands up. A coastal surveillance force, it conducts operations under the code name Market Time using 3.5 foot draft ‘Swift Boats$rsquo; capable of 28 knots. Their objective is to interdict enemy resupply efforts.

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On October 22, 1962, President Kennedy announces a quarantine of Cuba in response to the Soviet deployment of medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles there. A ready Navy enables Kennedy to protect national interests in one of the most serious confrontations of the Cold War.

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On December 30, 1959, the first ballistic missile submarine USS George Washington (SSBN-598) is commissioned.  Within a year, the boat goes on the Navy’s 1st strategic deterrent patrol armed with Polaris missiles. Since then, submariners have completed more than 4,000 such patrols.

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On December 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy,” the Japanese attack the U.S. Pacific Fleet based at Pearl Harbor, and nearby military airfields and installations. American shock and anger unites a divided nation and translates into a wholehearted commitment to victory in WWII.

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy

On March 20, 1922, the fuel ship USS Jupiter is recommissioned as USS Langley (CV-1), the Navy’s first aircraft carrier. In WWII, on January 27, 1942, while carrying U.S. Army P-40s to the East Indies, Langley is attacked by Japanese aircraft. Severely damaged, she is later scuttled.

A Moment in the Life of America's Navy